Recession Meals: Franks and Beans

Yes, you read that right.  Franks and Beans is a staple of American cuisine, something that everyone remembers having as a kid, and for most of us, a bygone memory of childhood.  As adults, we aren’t really enthusiastic about revisiting these kinds of pre-adolescent culinary recipes, because in retrospect they weren’t really much to write home about.

Out of a can, baked beans tend to be a mushy mess of legumic hell, not getting much better when paired with a few cut up hot dogs.  Made from scratch, though, with a few ingredients that most of us probably already have in our pantry and refrigerators, and Franks and Beans becomes our Recession Meal this week.

Beans are inexpensive no matter how you look at them, being about a dollar or less for a pound of dried beans, or about the same price for canned.  Everything else in this recipe is something that you probably already have on hand.  As for preparation, there are actually three ways to pull this one off, but one of them involves specialty cookware in the form of a pressure cooker, which I highly recommend for time savings.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you want to approach this, and include directions for all alternatives.  You may find that you like Franks and Beans made one way more than another, but I would presume that since each method uses the same ingredients, the end result should not vary much in taste.

Franks and Beans – a Recession Meal Recipe from The Best Food Blog Ever

1 lb white beans (Cannelini or Great Northern), dried, or use canned (rinse both under running water) [89 cents]

1 onion, chopped [5 lbs for $2.99]

2 cloves garlic, chopped [1 head for 75 cents]

Some bacon, about two or three slices, chopped [$4 per lb, thereabouts]

1/2 Cup ketchup [on hand, or about a dollar for the cheap stuff]

1/2 Cup maple syrup [on hand, or about $3 per bottle]

2 Tbs mustard [on hand, or about a dollar for the cheap stuff]

2 Tbs brown sugar [on hand, or about $2 to $3 for a box]

Hot dogs, cut up [$3 a pack, thereabouts]

If you are using dried beans: Put the beans in water to cover in the morning before leaving for work so that they soak all day.  Prepare according to the directions on the bag (which probably involves boiling them for about an hour or so).

Option 1: You can do the quick-soak method in a pressure cooker – put the entire pound of beans into a pressure cooker with 6 cups of water.  Seal the cooker, bring to a boil over high heat, and pressure-cook for five minutes.  Quick-release the pressure, drain the beans.

Option 2: Just open up a can or two of beans and rinse them under running water.  The final texture of the dish will probably be softer, so consider yourself warned.

Put the bacon into a saucepan (large enough to hold all of the beans when you add them) or pressure cooker over medium heat and stir it up.  Let all of that wonderful pork fat render out of the bacon, about five minutes or so, and then use a slotted spoon to scoop the bacon bits out onto a paper towel.  Leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Throw your chopped onion into the bacon fat and give it a good stir.  Let that run for about five or ten minutes, until the onion is nicely browned and your kitchen smells like IHOP.  During this step, if you were using dried beans, have six cups of water ready to go.

After the onions are soft and browned at the edges, toss in your chopped garlic and stir vigorously to keep it from burning (if garlic burns, in this or any other dish, you should immediately shut off all of your burners and order a pizza.  Srsly.)  After 30 seconds of garlic-stirring, add all of the beans.

If you are using dried beans, add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer the contents of the pot until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Option 1: If you are making this in a pressure cooker, add the 6 cups of water, cover and seal, bring to pressure and cook for 10 minutes.  Quick-release the pressure and continue to the next step.

Option 2: If you are using canned beans, just add the drained beans and a little bit of water, like a cup, to keep it all from burning.  The beans are already tender out of the can, so you can skip ahead to what I call the EXTREMELY TASTY PART of this recipe.

If you are using dried beans, once they are tender, drain the contents of the pot using a colander and dump it all back into the pot.

Here’s the EXTREMELY TASTY PART of the recipe.  Add the rest of the ingredients, that being the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and maple syrup, to the beans and mix well.  Throw in the chopped bacon and the hot dogs.  Bring it all to a simmer and cook for about five to ten minutes, making sure to stir it often so that the beans on the bottom don’t stick and burn.

You’re ready to go.  If there are no kids or picky eaters around, you can hit the pot with a shot of whiskey and stir it in.  It makes it better, trust me.

Homemade Franks and Beans is nothing like what you remember from your childhood.  The flavors are brighter, the textures are more defined, and you may find yourself becoming a fan all over again.  As an added bonus to this Recession Meal, this recipe makes a ton of Franks and Beans, so it can actually serve as two or three dinners, or multiple lunches, as the case may be.